What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do Next

Sooner or later, every piece reaches a moment of decision (or possibly indecision.) Maybe it doesn’t look finished, but you don’t know what more to do. Or maybe you know it’s not finished, but the next step is unclear. You wish like anything you knew what to do when you don’t know what to do.

You may not think of it this way, but this is a form of artist’s block. Probably the most common form.

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do Next

Every one of my paintings reaches this point of momentary artist’s block.  Usually, it’s late in the process, when I think the painting is unfinished, but I can’t think what more to do with it.

But sometimes I can clearly see the painting isn’t finished. It’s just as clear that I have no idea what to do next.

This is Afternoon Graze at that point. The landscape looks good. Even the dark horse looks pretty good. But that chestnut! Yikes! There was still a lot to do, but for some reason or another, I couldn’t decide the next step.

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do Next

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do Next

Here are a few things I do to counter this type of momentary artist’s block.

Take a break and do something that’s not art.

A lot of times, the problem with artist’s block is fatigue. You’ve been working on that piece for so long, you’ve squeezed the last bit of creative juice out of yourself.

That was the case with Afternoon Graze. It took a lot of hours stretched over about six weeks to finish. I was about four weeks into the process when momentary artist’s block struck.

What do you do at a time like that?

Something that’s not art or art-related. Something relaxing. I find doing dishes by hand relaxes both my hands and my mind. It’s the sort of physical activity that doesn’t require a great deal of concentration, so it’s an ideal brain break.

Gardening might be your thing, or going for a walk, and spending time with a pet.

The goal is to step away from art for ten or fifteen minutes, then return to it.

Set the work aside for an extended time.

Quite often, it’s helpful to take more than just a short break.

Sometimes you may need to put that piece away for the day, and look at it again with fresh eyes the next day. Or the next week if you happen to be stopping on a Friday.

More often than not, I’m tired physically, mentally or creatively when I encounter these sorts of momentary artist’s block. After sufficient rest, the problems are either far less intimidating, or non-existent.

When I sit down to work the next day, my mind is fresh and I can look at the piece more like someone seeing it for the first time. A lot of times, I can’t find anything wrong with it. The problem was all in my imagination.

If there are still problems, they may not look so terrifying, or I may know what to do next.

Find something small and easy to fix.

Sometimes, there’s more than one problem to correct. Look for something you can fix fairly quickly and easily. Something you know how to fix.

If there aren’t any specific problems with the piece beyond that big one, then make some little adjustment.

In other words, look for a place to begin. Once you begin, it’s likely you’ll fall into the rhythm of creation, and when it comes time to tackle that big problem, you’ll know instinctively what to do.

Stop thinking and just do.

When it comes time to tackle that big problem, don’t over think it. Quite often, I discover that when I have a gut instinct to use a certain color, but I think about it long enough to choose a different color, I’ve thought too much.

And I’ve made a mistake that needs to be corrected.

With Afternoon Graze, my gut instinct was to add another layer of orange to the chestnut horse. For some reason, I didn’t want to do that, but I didn’t know what to do instead, and everything came to a screeching halt.

When I stopped resisting that gut instinct, the momentary artist’s block disappeared.

So How Did Afternoon Graze Turn Out?

I think it looks pretty good.

Conclusion

Most of the time, overcoming momentary artist’s block has more to do with what’s going on inside you, than on the paper. In times like those, the best thing to do is give yourself permission to lay the pencils down.

Even when there are problems with the art, there are usually ways to overcome them.

One thing you must never do is allow it to hinder you permanently.

Afternoon Graze is featured in an in-depth tutorial from Ann Kullberg*. Get your tutorial today.

*Affiliate link.

Getting and Staying Motivated

I recently conversed with a reader getting started with colored pencils. She’d wanted to be an artist from the time she was five, but one thing and another got in the way. Now that she’s making a start, she wanted to know my tricks for getting and staying motivated when art gets tough.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

I’ll be honest.

I had to stop and think about her question. Do I really have any tricks for getting and staying motivated? After all, that’s an often daily struggle for me. There are so many other things to do.

Things that seem more important.

Things like writing blog posts, freelance writing (to support my art habit,) daily chores around the house, including cat care and, now that spring is coming, yard and garden work.

Yes, I keep a to-do list. Two actually. A written list and Sarah Renae Clark’s Habit Tracker*. I’d be lost without them.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - To-Do List

And yes, art is on both.

But it’s still so easy for studio time to sink to the bottom of the list. Some days, it drops clean off the list! I hardly seemed like the right person to answer the reader’s question. She deserved an answer, but I didn’t know what to tell her.

Then I remembered my personal art challenges for this year, and realized I had a few tricks for getting and staying motivated to make art.

Even when I don’t want to.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

15-Minute Promise

The best thing I ever did to motivate myself was the 15-minute promise.

What is the 15-minute promise? Simple. I do art for 15 minutes, and can quit without feeling guilty. Getting and staying motivated is a lot easier when I know I could quit in 15 minutes and still have met a goal.

Some days, I work for 15 minutes, and that’s all.

But what usually happens was that once I get started, I’m able to work for an hour or two.

Even now, I sometimes (often) still have to invoke that 15-minute promise to get my rear in the chair and my pencils moving over the paper!

15-Minute Task List

Some tasks that have to be done each day can be kept up-to-date and moving forward with no more than 15 minutes a day.

Remember all those “other things” on my to-do list. Some of them are daily things (social media, blog updates, etc.) There are also bigger projects like writing books. All of those things can be managed with only 15 minutes a day.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish on even the biggest project in just 15 minutes a day. But it’s also a great way to limit the time you spend on things that eat up time like a hungry lion!

It’s also much easier to paint or draw after finishing all those other little tasks.

Draw Studies

Another way I try to keep myself drawing every day is by doing studies.

Studies are not complete works; they’re small drawings or sketches of larger subjects. I like to draw landscapes, so I’ve been doing a lot of small drawings of branches, and bark and things like that. The maximum size is 4 inches by 6 inches and I often work even smaller than that.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Studies

I don’t always limit the amount of time I work on them, but because they’re so small, they don’t take much time, even when I put a lot of detail into them.

You learn more and learn it more quickly this way than by trying to work on larger pieces once or twice a week (or less.) I highly recommend it.

And you’d be surprised how inspiring and motivating a study can be, especially when it leads you to a new subject or a new way to draw a familiar subject.

Draw from Life/Outside

Do some drawing from life and/or draw outside. Plein air drawing not only gets you outside, but gives you the opportunity to see things in a different way.

And whether you draw outside or inside, drawing the actual object instead of from a photograph is a good way to train your eye to see, and to train your hand to draw what you see.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Draw Outside

Draw in Different Locations

Writers do this all the time. They go somewhere other than their office or usual writing spot. It might be a coffee shop or a library or maybe even their car, parked in a scenic location.

That works for artists, too. In fact, that’s part of the reason I started drawing outside. The change of location and atmosphere made me want to draw.

You don’t have to go very far. The next room. Or the front porch or backyard.

Sometimes just changing the way you draw is motivating. Try standing at an easel if you usually sit, or try sitting in an easy chair if you usually work at a desk.

Do Something Fun or Outside Your Normal Art Routine

I recently had trouble working on the drawing for the month. At the end of the previous week, I’d made good progress, so it should have been easy to pick up again the following week. Right?

Wrong!

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Have Fun

I did nothing on Monday and kept busy enough on Tuesday that I didn’t give the monthly drawing as much time as I should have. Wednesday was a total wash out!

But I did do art all three days.

I did something experimental the first two days, and worked on my weekly drawing on the third. Neither one may amount to anything, but they got me started.

Audio Books/Movies/Music

Sometimes what you really need is distraction not motivation. What better distraction than an audio book, a movie or music?

I used to paint to music all the time and it worked. But then I heard Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art talk about listening to an audio book or movie while she paints or draws. She said she could sit for hours and make art if she had something interesting to listen to.

You know what?

It works!

You might also add live streams from other artists to that list. I often draw or paint while listening to (and sometimes watching) Lisa’s live streams!

Getting and Staying Motivated Looks Different for Each of Us

Those are some of my tricks for getting and staying motivated when art gets tough. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

Or maybe you’ve already found your secret motivating tools. If so, share them in the comments below.

After all, we can always use more motivation!

*Affiliate Link

The Colored Pencil Journey

All of life is a journey. Art is no different. No matter your age, you begin an art  journey the first time you pick up a brush, pencil or sculpting tool. If you’re reading this post, chances are good you’re on a colored pencil journey of your own.

And you’ve found it to be challenging, frustrating, and captivating. In other words…

…the adventure of a lifetime!

The Colored Pencil Journey

Food for Thought

I recently talked about 12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils. As often happens, that simple list started a conversation. It began with this comment by John, a reader.

You pretty much covered all of the reasons Colored Pencils are wonderful, but I may have one more….

I like CP’s because it feels like taking a journey with an old friend when working on a drawing. Like they say it’s the journey not the destination….

John is right. Colored pencils are a form of journey. His comment started me on a train of thought that will probably never be completed in this lifetime. The colored pencil journey, in all its glory.

The Colored Pencil Journey Begins

The journey begins with a spark of interest in the subject. Something attracts your eye. A exquisite piece of art you thought was a painting, but that turns out to be  a stunning colored pencil work.

Artists you admire talking non-stop about the medium they love. Can you really do everything they claim can be done with colored pencil?

Maybe your journey began with an adult coloring book, and working with color on paper to relax reminds you of the hours of fun you had coloring and drawing as a child.

Or maybe you passed a display case somewhere and the rainbow of colors caught your eye and drew you in.

The Colored Pencil Journey 1

Before You Know It, You’re on Your Own Colored Pencil Journey

You have your own collection of colored pencils, a pad or two of paper, and an intense desire to make your mark. You don’t know how., and you don’t even know if this is for real or is merely the latest fad. But you have to try.

Something clicks mentally and emotionally with the first mark. The feel of the pencil gliding over the paper. The resulting line and color. Suddenly, this is more than just a fad, or even a hobby. This is serious! You must do another one. Then another and another.

Line, color, and shape all contribute to entice you into considering a journey to a completed piece of art. Something more than the sketches or doodles you’ve been doing.

Something of your own making from start to finish.

A Series of Little Journeys

The more you draw, the more you find each drawing is a journey all it’s own.

And within that journey are other, shorter jaunts.

The drawing stage is preparation for the journey, but it’s also its own journey. You learn about the subject. Is this really something you want to do? A place you want to go? The possibilities seem endless. The prospects of the journey boundless. It’s going to be so much fun!

Drawing completed, the journey begins. By now, you know the subject well enough to have developed a kinship with it. You know the places you look forward to exploring as well as those that might present a rough spot in the road. You have a good idea how to capture the spirit of your subject, and what colors will best express that theme.

The first few days of the journey are fun and exciting. The subject begins to come alive with your attention. Shapes form. Color blossoms. What a delightful subject! What a wonderful trip!

The Colored Pencil Journey 2

Roadblocks and Detours

Alas, as with most long journeys, there comes the moment when you become aware of a creeping thought. Like a child in the backseat, a little voice asks, “Are we there yet?”

You dampen the thought. Colored pencil is not a quick medium. One stroke at a time, one color at a time. A lot of strokes have been made, a lot of steps taken. The destination is in sight.

But there’s still oh so far to go!

So you keep going, one stroke after the last.

Sometimes you have to force yourself to work. Thoughts of giving up and starting a different journey multiply. Hounds of discouragement yap at your heels. Get away!

The Colored Pencil Journey 3

The Sprint to the Finish Line

Then one day, you look at your artwork and discover it’s almost finished.

Colored pencil is funny that way. It can go from hopeless to complete in an amazingly short amount of time. Almost like going to bed looking at the city of your destination far off on the horizon, then waking in the morning to find it’s a lot closer than you thought.

Filled with enthusiasm, you push on. Time no longer matters. The right color, the right intensity, the right detail here or there… that’s all that matters.

By the time you finish, leaving it behind is like saying good-bye to someone you’ve come to know very well and whose company you have enjoyed despite the rough spots and, perhaps, an occasional disagreement.

The Colored Pencil Journey 4

And you know what? That drawing may not be everything you imagined at the beginning, but it’s the best one yet, and you can’t wait to start the next journey.

How about you? What is your colored pencil journey like?

Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with disappointment is one of the toughest lessons most of us have to learn. It seems to me that artists have an especially difficult time because of the intensely personal nature of what we do. Our artwork is part of us.

Artistic disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. Big, one-time opportunities that don’t happen quite as we imagined, or little disappointments we seem unable to shake.

I’ve had my share of both in the last year. Yes, some opportunities turned out better than expected, but there were also equally big opportunities that just didn’t happen.

Then there’s the ongoing disappointment of finished drawing that don’t measure up to my vision for them, and a failure to create as many drawings last year as I hoped to.

Learning to Deal with Disappointment is Important for Every Artist

Many of us have waited anxiously for the results of a juried exhibition. The anticipation of being accepted, the fear of being rejected.

My work has failed to make the grade more often than it’s been accepted.  I always try to maintain personal and professional balance by keeping busy, pushing forward on new and existing projects, and not thinking about the shows I apply for or the pieces I would do.

Even so, those notification emails in the inbox always make me catch my breath. This is it. The Big Day.

Then I see two words in the opening paragraph. We regret….

rejection

Another door closed.

Dealing with Disappointment

Just for the record, being having your work declined for a juried show or exhibit has less to do with your skill as an artist than with the number of excellent artists who also have hopes of a spot in prestigious shows.

Fact of life.

Still, it’s always a disappointment that can shade your mental outlook for part of the day. At least it does mine.

Whether or not you will ever face disappointment isn’t a question. You will.

The real question is: How do you deal with it?

Dealing with Disappointment

Tips for Dealing with Disappointment

Give yourself time to mull over disappointments. Allow yourself to be surprised by depth of the disappointment. Even to wonder what made you think you fit into that show in the first place.

Disappointments are just like grief in some respects. You have to go through them; there is no way around them, over them, or under them.

It’s important to allow yourself time to experience disappointment. Savor it, if you must, but don’t immerse yourself in it. Savor for 30 minutes, then let it go and move on.

Remember that failing to make the cut for an exhibit or show is not necessarily a reflection on your talent. If your work was good before you submitted it, it’s still good. The fact that it wasn’t accepted is more likely a reflection of limited space for the exhibit, and perhaps a judges whim.

Look forward to the next show or exhibit. You now have pieces available for another show. Go ahead and enter them. The best remedy I’ve found for dealing with disappointments is to look forward to the next thing, whether it’s another show, or exhibit, or another portrait client.

In other words, keep moving forward.

Don’t let one disappointment dampen your enthusiasm for creating art. Look for the next piece to create or finish whatever’s currently on your easel.

The moral to this story is that you will encounter disappointment in some form. Don’t let it get personal and don’t let it get you down. Keep making art and keep looking forward.

And by all means keep trying.

The only sure way to fail is to stop trying.

What gets you going again after a disappointment?

How Race Horses and Artists Are Alike

Race Horses and Artists

If you have any interest at all in horses or sports, you know that one of horse racing’s premier events began yesterday and concludes today—the Breeder’s Cup series.

In recognition of that event, I’m reaching back into my archives and republishing a post that first appeared on my writing blog a couple of years ago.

How Race Horses and Artists are alike has been around the track several times since it was first published. Although there are a lot of things I can compare myself to as an artist, showing you how I am like a race horse is my favorite.

Race Horses and Artists

So what do race horses and artist really have in common?

Let’s take a look.

Race Horses and Artists - How They're Alike

The Race horse….

A race horse spends its early days alone with its mother. All of the basic lessons are learned in this one-on-one relationship. Standing. Walking. Running.

Race Horses and Artists - The Baby Race Horse Alone with its Mother

After a time, the little race horse and its mother join other mothers and babies. The youngster learns to play with others in its natural environment. It learns to do what it does best; run fast.

After a few months, the baby race horse learns how to be a grown up race horse. It still runs and plays and grows and matures, but it’s still mostly untutored, learning with its band of buddies.

Finally, it enters training. It learns about bridles and bits and saddles. It learns to carry a rider. Life seems pretty regimented, and the horse doesn’t do much running.

When the young race horse has learned all these things and is reasonably good at them, then it goes to the track. The first time it sees a track, it doesn’t know what the track is for. But let the rider give the horse a little rein and tell it to go, and the race horse knows what to do. Run! Oh boy!

But there are rules to learn. Rules about running with other horses in close quarters and about not running all out all the time. Rules about listening to the rider and about the starting gate. More rules about standing quietly before the running begins.

It can take a good trainer with a good student up to two years to get the race horse ready for its first race. A lot of time spent learning things that seem counterproductive to the purpose the race horse was born with…running fast.

Race Horses and Artists - Horses in a Race

But a good, solid race horse that’s well trained steps onto the track for the first time with natural ability AND a knowledge of the rules basic enough to get the job done.

If the race horse is good enough, it gets the job done faster than any other horse in the race.

Eventually, it might even find itself in the winner’s circle with a blanket of roses over its shoulders on Kentucky Derby day.

The Artist…

When I started drawing, I drew to please myself. I did what came naturally and I did it over and over and over. I learned about colors and how to use them. How to put lines together to create shapes, then how to shade those shapes to create form and so on.

I finished a lot of drawings before I started painting, learning something new about art and myself as an artist with each one. Then I graduated to painting and repeated the process.

And then I started taking art classes in school.

Then I found art magazines and subscribed to them.

And I started learning rules. Things like fat over lean, aerial perspective, color temperature, and the color wheel and value scale.

I even signed up for a popular correspondence art school. I wasn’t very creative at that point, but everything I learned contributed to becoming an artist.

Race Horses and Artists

Human beings are the only part of God’s creation that aren’t able to care for themselves within a short time of birth. That race horse I mentioned earlier can stand and walk within minutes of being born. It can run within hours. We humans, on the other hand, need years of care and instruction before we can do the most basic things for ourselves.

So it’s only natural that when we decide to make art, the first thing we do is seek out the help of others.

But if we haven’t taken time to play with our talents, we’re a blank slate. Everything we hear influences our art and the way we see ourselves as artists. We try to make everything work, even when one piece of advice directly contradicts another. That way leads to no personal style and no distinguishing characteristics.

We sound like no one because we sound like everyone. Consequently, our art looks like no one special because it looks like everyone.

Artists (and most creative people) need the same kind of time to play with their talents, to explore, learn, and grow that the baby race horse needs. In my opinion, artists should already have a solid knowledge of their artistic style and what they can do BEFORE attempting to learn the rules.

This is, however, only my opinion; based on personal experience. Each person is different.

But don’t be so eager to jump into training that you forget playing. Whether you learn by playing first, then seek training, do both at once, or something else, make sure you take time to learn about yourself as an artist.

And wherever you are in your artistic journey, don’t forget to play! Both race horses and artists need time to play.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God;

The skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out to all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the World.

Psalm 19:1-5

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

No event is all bad if it causes a person to look upward. Personal challenges. Financial crises. Creative silences or just difficult days. Most of those sorts of events do turn my gaze off myself and upward.

But I don’t always need a life-altering event to look up. Sometimes the sheer glory of a sunrise or sunset is enough.

Or towering thunderheads or a sky peppered with stars that look close enough to touch. The heavens declare the glory of God in so many ways to those who are in tune with Him.

Artists are often asked how they get or stay inspired. The answer for me lies in all of life. How can an artist enjoy her surroundings—even the less than perfect ones—and not be inspired?

Feel free to share this image. All I ask is that you keep it intact, including the watermark for my website. Thanks for your courtesy!

Why I Teach Colored Pencil

Why I Teach Colored Pencil Courses

I never thought it would happen. I mean, what do I know that anyone else would want to learn, let alone pay to learn from me? But it has happened, and I find myself thinking about all the twists and turns that led to this place, and about why I teach colored pencil in the first place.

How I Learned to Make Art

When I first began making art way back in the 1960s, there was no such thing as the internet. At least not for public use. I learned how to paint by painting every paint-by-number kit that featured a horse. Every Christmas, I got one or two and they were the highlight of the season.

After working my way through all known kits and painting them the way they were supposed to be painted, I started making changes. Small at first, then bigger.

A different color here or there.

A changed leg position.

Maybe a change to the background.

An early painting, a paint by number kit with the horses painted my own colors.

One day, my mother suggested I try making my own drawing and painting that instead of looking for another paint-by-number. A window opened on a whole new world. I’ve been drawing and painting ever since.

I could have gone to art school had I wanted to. But by the time I graduated high school, I already knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.

I wanted to draw horses to look as life-like as I could make them. I wanted to paint portraits.

Since abstract art was all the rage at the time, I was more or less on my own. I learned how to draw and paint by trial and error.

When I picked up colored pencils a few years later, it was the same process.

Why I Teach Online Art Courses

Why I Teach Colored Pencil

A lot of what I’ve learned about drawing and painting has come by trial and error. I can’t tell you how many paintings I started over because something didn’t work or because I made poor choices. I don’t regret those obstacles. Every single one contributed to the artist I am today.

But those obstacles become even more useful if they can be used to help others avoid the same mistakes and pitfalls.

Or reach their artistic goals more quickly and without the detours I experienced.

If even one new artist succeeds because of something they learned here, then all my work—including the mistakes—has been worth it.

And that’s the primary reason I teach.

From the beginning, my blog posts, tutorials, and one-to-one classes have been designed to provide to you what I wish I’d had years ago. Personalized instruction on the subject and style of my choice offered by someone whose work I admired and wanted to emulate.

And a way of hopefully avoiding some of the time-consuming trial-and-error learning I experienced.

Why I Teach Colored Pencil Courses

What You Gain From an Online Colored Pencil Course

I don’t know if I’m an artist whose work you admire. The fact that you’re reading this post suggests that maybe I am.

Nor do I know if you want to learn what I can teach.

What I do know is that the instruction you’ll get is personalized. One-on-one correspondence by email. Personalized help with drawing, and personalized critiques of your work-in-progress during the course and, if you like, afterward as well.

While I hope you share my love of the form and art of horses, my larger hope is that you’ll find something of value in the material itself. Whether you want to learn a new medium, try your hand with a new subject, or just want to brush up on existing skills, there is something here for you.

Are you ready to start?

Tutorials and classes are now offered through Colored Pencil Tutorials. Purchase the tutorial of your choice, download it and start today.

Or you can enroll in a one-to-one class by the day or week.

Both are available to artists at all skill levels.

Spring in CP
Spring in Colored Pencil
Colored Pencil on UArt Sanded Paper

About Carrie

Carrie has been making art for most of her life and has been painting portraits of horses and other animals since selling her first portrait in Junior High. She specializes in up-close-and-personal portraits and moment-in-time images, with a special interest in horse racing of all types.

Her focus is now on teaching colored pencil and, by special request, oil painting.

Colored pencils are her medium of choice.

She writes regularly for the online art magazine, EmptyEasel.com. Topics include the artist’s life, the business of art, and, of course, colored pencil and oil painting.

Thank you, and we hope to sign you up today.

*The artist’s specialties are with horses and other animals and with landscapes. Other subjects will be considered except for nudes and offensive subjects. If you have a question, please contact the artist.

What I Do When I’m Under the Weather

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

We all experience times when we’re under the weather physically or creatively.

I’m in the second week of a two-week cold (today is day eleven). My colds usually last about two weeks whether or not I see a doctor, so I use a variety of home remedies to deal with the symptoms while the process runs its course. Lots of rest, lots of fluids, and a reduced schedule. A cough suppressant or decongestant as needed.

I’m not in a very creative place at the moment. Fiction writing—yes, I do that, too—has ground to a halt. The plain truth is that almost everything has. I have enough energy to do what must be done and that’s about it. Blogging (although this post took most of the week to come together) and EmptyEasel articles. Maybe a bit of drawing one or two days in the last week.

So what do I do with all that “spare time”?

(By the way, lest you get the wrong idea from the illustration above, my cold isn’t that serious. I just love lightning and had to use that image! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah.)

What I Do When I’m Under the Weather

These are a few of the things I do when I’m in the middle of a cold or any other illness that sidelines me temporarily or long-term. Maybe these things will help you. Maybe they’ll prompt your little gray cells to other ideas.

1. Read

My first recourse is always reading. When I’m under the weather and lack energy for the usual routine, I have lots of time for sitting around or lying in bed. That means lots of time for reading.

Usually, hubby makes a trip to the library and lugs back an armful of books. Favorite authors include Agatha Christie, Jan Karon, Chris Fabry, and Joel C. Rosenberg. There’s nothing like holding a book in my hand, so although I have a lot of selections on my Kindle for PC, I still prefer books with real pages and actual covers.

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

Sometimes, I read some of my stories. The older the better, usually. Otherwise, it’s too much like work!

2. Look at Photographs

I especially like looking at online photographs. One of my favorite places to browse is Pixabay. Pixabay images are published under a CCO license, which means they’re free for use in any commercial way. The images in this post come from Pixabay.

I don’t generally think of these images as reference photos, but you can never tell.

What I do often find is grandeur, beauty, awe—and sometimes sheer whimsy.

(This photo of colorful tomatoes reminds me of a drawing I once considered. It involved horses of different colors galloping across a black background. Drawn in colored pencil, of course!)

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

3. Surf the Web

Just this week, I happened upon a YouTube Channel for the Longines Masters. I spent an hour watching the speed challenge of the 2013 Longines Hong Kong Masters. Show jumping on the clock. Did you know there was such a thing? It was fascinating to see world class show jumping riders and horses racing the clock on what looked to me like an impossible course. Lots of jumps and lots of big jumps.

The amazing thing was that there were three clear rounds of the 18 competitors. Amazing!

Needless to say, I bookmarked that channel for future reference, along with the channels for the FEI and American Endurance Riding Conference.

But I also watch videos on making art, some of which I’ve shared here and some of which I will be sharing in the future.

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

4. Watch Movies

I don’t do this much at home, but when I was in the hospital for nearly a week in March of last year, my husband and I watched at least one movie every night for the duration. Sometimes two or three.

What do we like to watch?

  • Almost anything with Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne.
  • The Thin Man series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Avengers series
  • Dreamer, Seabiscuit, the Black Stallion, etc.

The hospital room had a VHS player, so we pretty much went through the part of our collection that hasn’t yet been replaced by DVDs.

God is good and provided for me for this cold. Shortly before it got bad, my husband came home from a regular church meeting with a package of CDs. A collection of 44 episodes of an old radio program, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, starring Bob Bailey. I’ve been listening to one CD a day for the last several days and I must confess, I’m hooked!

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

The Common Thread when I’m Under the Weather

The most important part of the process for me is the realization that I’m not a machine. I don’t create on demand (though I often behave as though I do) and I don’t control very much at all in life or in the studio.

Times likes these remind me that taking time to slow down and take a step back are just as important as all the time and work I put into art, stories, even this blog. If I don’t stop to recharge physically and creatively, pretty soon, the battery runs down.

And so does the mind and body.

So the best advice I can give you for dealing with your under-the-weather times is to find ways to recharge. Everything I’ve shared here recharges me in some way, preparing for the day with the lightning stops, the rain goes away, and the rainbows appear again.

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

For those among us who use them as our primary medium—or as one of our primary mediums—there are a lot of reasons to love colored pencils. If you’ve used them for any length of time at all, you can probably list five or six with no hesitation at all.

And I’ll wager that if each of us listed our top twelve reasons, every one of us would have at least one reason that was unique to us. That’s just human nature.

And the nature of the medium.

Following are my top twelve reasons for loving colored pencils.

Why I Love Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are easy to use

Open the box, sharpen the pencils (if necessary), grab a piece of paper, and start drawing. You don’t need to prepare a painting surface, mix a palette, or—best of all—wear protective clothing.

Colored pencils are clean

You don’t have to worry about getting them on your hands, clothing, or the things around you. You won’t find traces of them some unexpected place in the house because you brushed against wet paint without knowing it and transferred that color to other parts of the house.

No drying time

One of my chief complaints about oil painting was waiting for paint to dry. That’s not a concern with colored pencil drawing.

Unless you use solvents to blend or work with watercolor pencils.

All those luscious colors!

What artist doesn’t love color? And there are so many!

Colored pencils go everywhere

Colored pencils are easily transportable. Throw a few supplies into your field kit or a tote bag or purse (depending how big the set—or your purse—is) and you’re ready to go. Anywhere. Everywhere.

No smelly solvents (unless I want them)

I can make a beautiful drawing without having to breathe solvent fumes.

I can create a range of affects from soft focus to tight detail

Fine art colored pencils are much more versatile than the colored pencils I used in grade school. Almost everything that could be done with brush and paint can be done with colored pencils.

Colored pencils look—and work—great on so many different surfaces

We all know about drawing on paper. A lot of us have tried mat board, too. But what about sanded art papers, wood, canvas, or even Mylar? Colored pencils work on all of them and produce unique and interesting affects on each type of surface.

Nothing else captures ‘found’ texture quite as well as colored pencils

I’ve added interesting and unique textures to more than one drawing simply by laying the paper on a textured surface and lightly—or maybe not so lightly—shading over the paper. What a great way to add visual interest quickly and easily.

Colored pencils are perfect for making small format and miniature art

The thing that turns so many people away from colored pencil is the very thing that makes them ideal for small format and miniature art. The thin color core. What better medium for drawing details on artwork that’s 4×6 or less?

Bonus: You don’t need special tools…except for maybe a magnifying glass.

Colored pencils are perfect for drawing hair

Colored pencils are also fabulous for drawing hair. One of the things I love most about drawing horses is drawing those long manes and tails. I can paint a decent mane or tail with oils and very small brushes, but colored pencils are far more satisfactory.

The cat can play in my art box and I don’t have to worry about hazardous materials sticking to paws

This is important in a house with indoor cats. Cats like to climb. Cats like to explore.

They also like to help.

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils
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Years ago, one of our cats once threw himself on an oil painting while I was working on it (I worked flat, by the way). I had to take time to clean the paint off the cat before repairing the damage to the painting.

That doesn’t happen with colored pencils.

Those are My Reasons to Love Colored Pencils.

Why do you love them?